CHIEF ANTONGA BLACK HAWK - TIMPANOGOS NATION 1834 - 1870
Utahs' Black Hawk War; Timpanogos of the Wasatch
from Phillip B Gottfredson | Author "Black Hawk's Mission Of Peace"
Utahs' Back Hawk War is a story of genocide, paradoxes, and hypocritical morality , more importantly, the systematic extermination of Black Hawk's tribe the Timpanogos Nation of the Wasatch. The Timpanogos has not forgotten twenty years of plunder, poisoning of their water sources, or their ancestors who were massacred and beheaded at Battle Creek, Fort Utah, Bear River, and Circleville all in the name of 'colonization'. Begining in 1865, Chief Black Hawk led a vigorous crusade against Mormon settlers in defense of his people who were dying from violence, disease, and hunger.
The Black Hawk War was not a single event. Between 1849-1872, there were over a hundred and fifty bloody encounters. Forty-one occurred before 1866 when hostilities culminated in open warfare. "Confrontations were raging in all directions," said my great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, Peter lived with the Timpanogos during the war and wrote about those tragic times in his book Indian Depredations in Utah.
Q: What’s the importance of learning about a war that happened a century and a half ago, and what does it have to do with our lives today?
The simple answer is that the war is not over. It never ended. And the Timpanogos Nation has been written out of Utah's Native American history. They were catapulted into near extinction by Brigham Young's extermination order in 1850. Not only was their population, some seventy-thousand, reduced by over 90%, but they have also since had tremendous obstacles to overcome as a direct result. Serious economic issues and vested treaty rights violations that the Tenth District Court has warned the State of Utah about on numerous occasions, but those were ignored. "They take whatever they want," said Tribal members living on the Uintah Valley Reservation.
University of Utah Prof. Daniel McCool explained, "We took from them almost all their land—the reservations are just a tiny remnant of traditional tribal homelands. We tried to take from them their hunting rights, their fishing rights, the timber on their land. We tried to take from them their water rights. We tried to take from them their culture, their religion, their identity, and perhaps most importantly, we tried to take from them their freedom."
It's no secret that Utah's history on the Black Hawk War has been whitewashed and romanticized. It's time to speak the truth. This is no small matter, reader. It's about the inherent aboriginal rights of First Nations people who are indigenous to Utah. It's about human dignity and the intrinsic value of a human being. We must recognize the Timpanogos Nation and the catastrophic losses they have sustained because of Mormon colonization.
In a poignant conversation I had with Perry Murdock a council member of the Timpanogos Nation, and a direct descendant of Chief Wakara, Perry explained his perspective of the Black Hawk War, "Every day we are reminded of what our ancestors went through. How our families were torn apart. Children murdered, the old, the women, all those who were brutally murdered and made to suffer and die from violence, then disease, then starvation, our ancestors’ graves torn up, the land destroyed, it was genocide plain and simple. Why? What did we do? We didn't do anything. We were living in peace. We were happy. Our children were happy. We loved each other. We cared for each other. And when the Mormons came, we tried to help them. Then they tried to take everything away from us. They wanted it all. They wanted to exterminate us, wipe us off the face of the earth. Why? For our land? For our oil? Now we have nothing."
The time has come to unmask the myths about the war, and address the stereotyping of Utah's Native Americans. Stereotyping desensitizes people and distorts reality. For example, Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk for whom the war was named, is demonized as a renegade warrior, which couldn't be farther from the truth. When the most compelling story of all that comes out of the war is—Black Hawk’s heroic mission of peace.
Black Hawk was not the villain—he was the victim. Contrary to what historians would have us believe, the Timpanogos preferred peace over war. Antonga Black Hawk was the son of Chief Sanpitch who was an advocate for peace throughout the war. It was not about possessions and riches. They saw themselves as stewards of sacred land and fought to protect the sacred and their honor. And though they were not a warring Nation as such, if survival meant engaging in physical combat, they would do so honorably.
Timpanogos' leadership consisted of seven brothers namely Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen. These seven legendary leaders are referred to as "the privileged blood." They ruled every clan and village along the Wasatch. They were a powerful and prosperous Nation highly respected by all in the area. They had long maintained trade routes from the Columbia River to the north to the Gulf of Mexico to the south.
From the Timpanogos perspective, when Mormon colonists came to the Wasatch they upset the sacred and natural order of all living things, killing the deer, elk, and buffalo. “White man’s horses, cows, and sheep eat Indian’s grass. Whiteman burn Indian’s wood, shoot Indian’s buckskin, rabbits” they depleted the fish population and polluted the water. They cut down trees, diverted rivers and streams to irrigate their crops, and fenced off the land, which drastically altered their environment that the Timpanogos was solely dependent upon for food, medicines, and life-sustaining necessities.
Native American culture is a culture of values. There are many aspects of Native American culture that are misunderstood. The grooming of a War Chief, for example, requires time, and the wisdom of Elders who have a deep commitment to the wellbeing of the tribe. Chief Sitting Bull said, "The warrior is not someone who fights, for no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is the one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity."
Black Hawk was not a 'renegade' as some have characterized him. At a young age, he was educated in the Jesse Fox school in Spanish Fork, Utah. He learned to read and write English and spoke three languages Shoshoni, English, and most likely Spanish since his Tribe had long-established trade relations with neighboring Mexico. And as historian John Alton Peterson points out "Black Hawk had a keen understanding of Mormon economics."
Chief Wakara's nephew Black Hawk was but a boy when the Mormons came, and in time would become his Nation's War Chief under the leadership of his uncle Chief Tabby. Black Hawk's first responsibility was spiritual. Chosen by his Tribe to lead, his responsibility was to always try to preserve life. He told his warriors to shed no blood, only in self-defense.
Being a strong leader came naturally. Black Hawk's charismatic charm befriended people from all walks of life and aroused in people loyalty with enthusiasm. Honesty, love, courage, truth, wisdom, humility, and respect were the virtues he lived by. Black Hawk by his example taught that love can overcome hate and hypocritical morality. One who respected himself and appreciated others because we are all human. He understood the natural order that all inhabitants of Mother Earth are connected, what Native peoples call "the circle of life." He loved and forgave unconditionally, and understood that being born human makes you superior to nothing.
His elders taught that true freedom meant being in harmony with our fellow man and all that our Creator gave us. Black Hawk fought tirelessly to protect the sacred, his people, and freedom.
As a War Chief, 'taking coup' was a greater feat of bravery than taking a life. Leadership meant putting family and Nation above all else.
Black Hawk always offered up prayers before going into battle with ceremony and dance. And as a survivor, he made offerings to the enemy's family and was cleansed in a holy ceremony.
How do I know these things? I lived with them; I found the truth. These are traditional teachings of the Timpanogos I learned while living with them and Native Americans throughout North and South America. But it's not about me, it's about the circle of life.
The message of Indigenous America is connection, relationship, and unity. All people are one. One of the direct living descendants of Creator. Chief Joseph said, 'We have no qualms about color. It has no meaning. It doesn't mean anything." I believe this was Black Hawk’s message too when he made his last ride home to pass out of this world. In severe pain dying from a gunshot wound to his stomach, Chief Black Hawk made an epic hundred-and-eighty-mile journey by horseback and spoke to Mormon settlers along the way pleading for peace—and to end the bloodshed. You didn't see the settlers do this. So, it took a greater man to do such a thing. This was, Black Hawk's mission of peace, but it gets left out of Utah’s one-sided view of history.
Q: Did the Mormons try to help the Timpanogos?
Quoting from Walker's Statement to M. S.
MARTENAS July 6 1853. Chief Wakara explained, "They were friendly for a short time" said Chief Wakara, "until they became strong in numbers, then their conduct and treatment towards the Indians changed—they were not only treated unkindly—they have been treated with much severity—they have been driven by this population from place to place—settlements have been made on all their hunting grounds in the valleys, and the graves of their fathers have been torn up by the whites."
In the end, Black Hawk's grave was robbed by members of the LDS Church at Spring Lake, and his mortal remains were put on public display in the window of a hardware store for amusement in Spanish Fork, Utah. Then later was moved to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, and there remained on public display for decades.
And there's more—a lot more. Important information. The other half of the story, the Timpanogos version. Also the legacy of the Black Hawk War and the effects of Mormon colonization on Utah's indigenous; all of which are essential to our understanding of Utah's true cultural heritage, yet it gets left out of Utah's one-sided history and school curriculum. Why? Is it because no one cared enough to ask the Timpanogos their side of the story, afraid of what they know? No matter what narrowness of mind or denominationalism we may have surrendered our commonsense to, there needs to be truth in education. Educators need to teach true Native American history as a regular part of American History. The truth must be told regardless of what happened.
"We can forgive, but we can never forget. We should be able to walk our paths together with integrity, honesty, respecting each other, and being kind to each other. We need to talk, but we also need to stop talking, and listen. From our hearts we should talk, and listen."
Q: Why have I never heard of the Timpanogos?
Why indeed? Utah's history has failed to tell us about the twelve-thousand-foot mountain right in the heart of Utah that was named 'Mt. Timpanogos' in honor of the Tribe. In 1776 Spanish explorers Dominguez and Escalante named the majestic mountain 'La Sierra Blanca de los Timpanogos' (translation: The white mountain of the Timpanogos).
Q: Are the Utes and Timpanogos the same Tribe?
For over a century, Utah's historians have either assumed or overlooked the fact that the Timpanogos are not enrolled members of the Ute Tribe and never were. They are two distinctly different Nations in origin, ancestral bloodlines, language, and customs. The Colorado Utes were not in Utah until 1881 as "prisoners of war" 14 years after the Black Hawk War ended. For more on this topic read The Timpanogos Ute Oxymoron page.
Q: So, who and what caused the Black Hawk War...?
Some say it was because "they stole our cattle." The truth is Mormon colonists were stealing land and killing their people before the Timpanogos stole any Mormon beef. Again, there is far more to the story.
To fully comprehend the inculturation of early Christian-led colonists that brought devastation to Native Americans of Utah and across the Americas, it begins with the Doctrine of Discovery followed by Manifest Destiny, a caste system that migrated throughout Europe and the Americas, whereby Christian Monarchs decreed that anyone who did not believe in the God of the Bible, or that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah, were deemed "heathens," "infidels" and "savages". Christians believed that they were entitled to commit all manner of depredations upon them "by reason of their idolatry and sin."
There were no 'loathsome savages' or 'heathan Indians' living in Utah until the Mormons came. There were only indigenous people, human beings living in peace. It was only when Euorpeans arrived then they became "savages" and "redskins."
Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson wrote. "It was the making of a new world that Europeans became white, Africans black, and everyone else yellow red, or brown."
Blinded by their own inculturation, the Mormon church believe they have a divine obligation to convert Utah's Native Americans to Mormonism, according to church doctrine, and in so doing the so-called "loathsome" Indians would become a "white and delightsome people" and would be forgiven of the sins of their forefathers. (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 5:21-23) According to church doctrine, the nature of the dark skin was a curse, the cause was the Lord, the reason that the Lamanites (Indians) "had hardened their hearts against him, (God)" and the punishment was to make them "loathsome" unto God's people who had white skins.
Polygamist leader Brigham Young and his followers, many of who were recent converts to the LDS Church and had emigrated from Europe to North America to live in freedom the teachings of Christ; To save the 'heathens' from hell, and get rich, while Brigham Young spends more than a million dollars in church funds to ‘exterminate’ the Timpanogos Nation, then Latter-day Saints re-write history blaming the indigenous peoples of Utah to hide the facts.
Phillip B Gottfredson author of "Black Hawk's Mission of Peace"
Phillip B Gottfredson is a great-grandson of Peter Gottfredson, who collaborated with tribal leaders to share the Timpanogos' tragic story in his captivating detailed synopsis of The Utah Black Hawk War. Writing from the vantage point of the indigenous peoples of Utah is a reference point that has until now been ignored. Author of the book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace, he has spent decades researching the Black Hawk War while living among First Nations people seeking to understand Native American culture. (Published by Archway Publishing from Simon & Schuster)
My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson was a friend of Black Hawk and spent much of his youth living in the camps of the Timpanogos during the war. In 1919 Peter wrote a firsthand account of the Black Hawk War in his book Indian Depredations in Utah.
There is much we can learn from First Nation people, if only we would listen. We need each other. We need to find a pathway to forgiveness, and help build that bridge between our cultures with compassion, and mutual respect for human dignity. We need to help each other to heal from those trying times in our history. This is why I wrote My Journey to Understand Black Hawk's Mission of Peace. What began as a mere curiosity, morphed into a spiritual journey that forever changed my life in a good way. I don't have all the answers, but I am confident that my book will help you find some great bridge-building ideas of your own, together we can pickup the torch for Black Hawk, and generations to come will thank us for having the courage to make this world a better place for all our relations.
"I see a time of seven generations, when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life, and the whole earth will become one circle again." - Crazy Horse